TJGS Episode 11: The Best One Yet

This has always been my favorite episode of the series as it has more amazing, varied, beautifully conceived numbers packed into forty-five minutes than any other episode in the series and if you only catch one installment in the series, it should be episode eleven. 

The show begins in a Wintery Wonderland, with a chorus dancing in to introduce Judy before she glides in on a sleigh, seated next to a very handsome young dancer.  It's so glamorous and festive, and Judy so vibrant and sounding wonderful. 

As for the "Be My Guest" segment, this is one of the rare episodes in which it works, with guests Steve Allen and Mel Torme (the second of his contracted appearances) singing their "school song" and Judy responding with her "school song", that school being the little red schoolhouse at MGM.  It's clever, self deprecating, and sung with such mischief.  It's a joy.
Judy later sings "Here's That Rainy Day" in a number which is beautifully designed.  Judy in a raincoat crooning mournfully , as people stroll by, their umbrellas glistening from the rain above.  I really feel the show could have benefited from the more immersive "set-pieces" that highlight this show rather than the bizzare obstacle courses of random furniture that sometimes deck the stage and serve as set.  To be fair, this abstract kind of set was very popular in its day, and I could just be a matter of personal preference.
Mel Torme's solo spot is horrible in a really delightful way.  He sees himself as some kind of brooding ladies man, and was really into motorcycles at the time of the taping so he suggested doing the number in the midst of all these high powered machines.  Pair them up with these ultra-serious, "working way to hard to be sexy" dancers, and Mel schmoozing it up ala the "Rat Pack" and you have a treat.  Truthfully the recording of the song is wonderful, and no one can fault Torme's singing (although I will say he hit a couple of clunky notes in the show that I wish they would have let him do again).  He redeems himself in a marvelous duet with Judy in which the two of them sing "The Party's Over". 
Judy and Steve Allen also perform a medley of songs from the unsuccessful musical "Sophie" based on the life of Sophie Tucker, with music and lyrics by Allen.  It was Judy's idea to showcase the songs in the hopes that one of them might become a hit in spite of the failure of the show itself.  The first number in the medley "I Love You Today" is very sweet, while the second song is a touch on the trite side, and the third...the third is a dynamite song,and one of my three favorite performances on the series., and it comes in at 4:35 in the clip. 
It's lovely to see Steve Allen just beaming as she sings his work.  His great admiration is very apparent, and the two of them are so warm and comfortable together.
In the tea segment, Judy sits with Jayne Meadows (Steve's wife and Judy's new best friend).  She is so sophisticated, so erudite, and at ease with Judy.  She's like a showbiz version of one of Truman Capote's swans.  Now the wig she's wearing?  That  helmet with the curly cue on the side?  That's another matter altogether. 
Yet another number that just takes the house down is a gorgeous interlocking puzzle of an arrangement which combines several songs as sung by Garland, Allen and Torme.  The conceit of the number is that each of them wants to sing a different song, so they sing every one of them.  Often times one sings lead while one or two of the others sing in counterpoint.  When you watch the clip, feel free to skip the unneccesary comic bit and go right to the good stuff at 3:40.
Finally, there's the "Trunk Spot".  The first number is a throw away that is only noticeable for how much Judy seems to be enjoying herself, but the second is a breathtaking piece, almost operatic in its breadth and tone, and Judy's voice just soars.  It's kind of distillation of all the things that make her one of the most magnetic performers who ever lived.
(Note:  the show was taped in mid-October, but must have planned as a New Years episode from the get-go- it aired on January 5th, 1964- as there are at least three mentions of the new year peppered throughout the episode.